New Age: Still with Us and Still Dangerous, Part One

“I don’t have to go to church — God comes to me. He’s with me and around me wherever I am.”

Those words, offered by a mother to her son, contributed to the apparent self-actualization of best-selling author — I’m talking been-on-the-New York Times-bestseller-list-for-hundreds-of-weeks-best-selling — Neale Donald Walsch. His books, which all revolve, in one form or another, around the very appealing premise of “Conversations with God,” speak to people in ways that apparently rival Sacred Scripture; however, Sacred Scripture they are not.

This prompts the question: How do millions of Christians get duped into believing the ramblings of New Age messengers like Neale? What is the draw that sends books like Neale’s to the top of the New York Times bestseller list for 100+ weeks?

Before answering, consider the more recent phenomenon that was catapulted to the top of the New Age heap after being hawked by Oprah: The Secret . This book by Rhonda Byrne rivaled Neale’s in appeal and sales. At the core of the book is the “Law of Attraction” in which, according to its author, like attracts like — and since you deserve all good things, your good thoughts about all you deserve will bring you all you deserve.

Maybe it’s the Catholic in me, but when I think of what I deserve… yikes !

Needless to say, these sorts of books have a lot in common. At the heart of teaching is the underlying belief that we each make up and are responsible for our own reality. We are able to work independently of an Absolute Truth for there are no absolutes, only relative absolutes where every person is entitled to a great and wonderful life experience.

Every situation can be read from your own perspective.

A neighbor irritated with your late night parties can be ignored because the problem is his, not yours. (Maybe he hasn’t bought the book yet.)

The promotion you lost wasn’t because of your lack of skills or ability but rather was the fault of your supervisor who was blind to the gift that is you.

No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong.

I readily admit that on a blistering cold, winter Sunday morning in Michigan, the philosophy of Neale’s mother is mighty appealing — I would love to stay wrapped up in my jammies and let God come to me versus braving the cold to go see Him. But when I begin to make up my own rules about attending Church I am in disobedience to God who has clearly called me to worship Him on Sabbath and keep the day holy. Once I start sliding down that slippery slope it is only a matter of time before other commandments fall by the wayside as I more easily accept my own shortcomings and see no need to address them in a way that develops virtuous habits.

Along with the likes of Neale’s book Conversations with God (which he says was intended to be his own letter to God but then he found the pen moving of its own accord), it has long been my own personal belief that the teachings found in the popular, ungodly Oprah-touted book, The Secret, played a role in the recent collapse of our American economy. The book’s philosophy goes something like this: I will “see” the promotion that I want and will help actualize it by buying things based upon this new promotion that I “see.” When the bills begin piling up I will “see” the money in my checkbook — I may even write out checks to help the vision become clearer, more “real.”

I can’t help but wonder: how many people followed this “Law of Attraction” to their economic suicide? I’m no statistician but I believe that if one were to look at the number of books sold against the number of economic disasters in the months that followed there would be some sort of direct correlation.

Sure, maybe some people were greedy but let’s assume that most simply wanted a nicer home or a second car or a vacation. Let’s be honest, it is quite easy to succumb to New Age messages.

I have a dear friend whose husband got hold of a Joel Osteen book that was dripping with prosperity doctrine. According to my friend, her unemployed husband, after reading Osteen’s message of God’s deliverance from pain and despair, took that to mean that God would blow a job in through an open window and thus the husband sat, waiting patiently, for the miracle to arrive. He trusted God because, well, God is good and wouldn’t want his family to starve or get evicted.

Yes, God is indeed good; but He values virtuous living in the form of trust combined with diligence. Faith goes hand in hand with action.

Was this the intention of Osteen? I do not necessarily believe that to be the case and yet Osteen’s book is a great reminder that in the wrong hands or with a misguided frame of mind, even a good-intentioned Christian message becomes toxic.

As Catholic Christians we ought not to forgo the Cross set before us. This is part and parcel of our faith – and most certainly why our numbers have dwindled over the past couple of self-indulgent decades. Who wants to pick up a cross when a pot of gold is right around the corner? Who wants to own up to personal responsibility when a new perspective can change things in our favor? When faced with a difficult challenge or particularly heavy burden, very few of us would embrace a Cross or personal responsibility with eagerness.

However, our salvation is not separate from our earthly sojourn. The intention is that we are able to — and ought to — work out our salvation in fear and trembling; the crosses we bear and the burdens we carry are joined to Christ, not for His good, but for ours.

In part two: An interview with Sharon Lee Giganti.

Cheryl Dickow

By

Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.com.

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  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    Seems reasonable. You can actually take this logic a step further: people believe they have a right to only good things will vote invariably for politicians who promise to deliver these goods, especially when times are tough. They will ignore all else in their attempt to ensure that their inalienable right to full material blessedness is always fulfilled. Not only will they ignore the plights of their brothers (especially if the latter can not be seen or can be otherwise dismissed), in the end they wind up being their own worst enemies. This is because as soon as the politicians begin meddling, it is guaranteed that whatever they touch will first become superficially better as other people’s money rolls in to cover the apparent shortcomings. However, the long-run (and usually medium-run) result is always the same: government wrecks everything. As soon as coerced money and political jaundice enter the fray, the whole edifice eventually comes crashing down, thereby making what might have been an irritating situation into a bad one, and a bad one into a crisis.

    This has nothing to do with Democrat-or-Republican questions. Our society incurred massive consumer debt because money was cheap for two decades. Money was cheap for two decades because Greenspan and Bernanke submitted to the subtle (and sometimes overt) political pressure to make it so. Had money been less cheap, more folks would have saved larger amounts — if only to chase the potential interest earnings. But this did not happen. Money was dirt cheap — and so it remains.

    Had Greenspan any courage, his Fed would have raised interest rates more often, if only in recognition of the inflated levels of debt in the society. Such would have been the just response: true savers might have gotten something for their efforts, and many spenders would have been converted to the wisdom of savings. But the Fed’s policy remained: full printing presses ahead! And it continues this way even now. Steal from the savers; give to the spenders. And when the spenders go under, steal some more! There’s nothing in all the world quite like a government run amuck. Herod would have been proud.

  • http://catholichawk.com PrairieHawk

    Recently I did something very foolish: I took out a payday loan to buy something I didn’t need. I had a vague plan for repaying the money that involved…I’m not sure what I had in mind. After two weeks of having the loan outstanding, I realized that the money wasn’t going to “just happen.” I ended up selling the thing I had bought (I’m too embarrassed to tell you what it was) and then working extra hours to earn extra money to pay the loan off. In the end, the loan was paid and I learned a valuable lesson. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work extra, if it weren’t for that I’d be in the midst of some difficult negotiations right now with the loan provider. I am very grateful to Jesus and to my employer both of whom made it possible for me to undo my mistake. If visualizing extra cash would have worked, then I would have done that. I know now that the only way to get money is to earn it, to provide value for someone else and then to be compensated for your services. It’s a pretty good lesson to finally get into my skull at the age of 40!

  • catholic mom

    I have seen a couple of commercials recently advertising layaway for Christmas gifts. I hope this practice is coming back into vogue. Not only does it avoid getting into credit card or payday loan debt but, more importantly, teaches people how to wait and work for something they want. Being able to delay pleasure has practically vanished in our fast, gotta-have-it-now society.

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